One of the things I like about Hong Kong is that when you get just a few blocks out of the main tourist area, you find yourself immersed in a very Chinese environment that is quite different from the world in which we Westerners come from. Yesterday, we went to the little island of Cheng Chau – a forty five minute ferry ride away from Hong Kong.
This island supports some simple tourism but is far from being overwhelmed by it. It is primarily a fishing village. The ferry was very crowded and we were trying to work out why so many people were travelling until we realised that it was Sunday and a lot of local families were simply having a day out. As you come into the harbour, the waterfront scene is a bit reminiscent of one from the mid 1800’s. A line of low buildings follows along the harbour front and the harbour is full of fishing vessels. The streets are very narrow lane ways and the only way to get around is by bicycle or small motorised vehicles. Even the fire engine is miniaturised and especially designed to travel through the narrow alley ways.
We ate a late lunch in one of the waterfront cafes. The prawns were good but we made a mistake in ordering the crab. We had to do an enormous amount of work to extract very little meat from the shells. However, it was a seafood resr=taurant and ordering anything else would have not been in keeping with the environment.
One of the things that I enjoy about travel is the vast variety of people that you meet. Not all are likeable, but they are generally interesting. I must give credit to a few that we have found in Hong Kong.
Firstly, I think that the car, truck and bus drivers here have an incredible amount of patience. There is, and has been (for a long time) an enormous amount of construction work happening here. Hong Kong is just one large infrastructure project! The building works require street diversions and roadways being blocked. Yet the drivers here seem to handle it with a great degree of patience and tolerance.
Tolerance, on the other hand, is found to be lacking when being continually accosted by touts (mostly Indian) around the Star Ferry Terminal and major tourist streets. These people annoy me to death by constantly thrusting business cards towards me and touting for tailor shops and sellers of copy watches and copy handbags. They drive me, and probably every other tourist, to distraction. Yet. full marks for their capacity to handle continual rejection. They are either completely ignored or abused but nothing reduces their persistence .
Then, there is the group of eight Chinese women (tourists from some unknown place) who had the loudest voices imaginable. Their entire conversation could be heard a city block away and it sounded as if they were in some form of vehement argument. Their body language indicated that they were not angry at each other – just talking in very loud and shrill voices that seemed to have a very angry edge. The best thing to do was to spend a few minutes looking at a shop window and letting them move well away.
There is also the waiter (Kenny) in the hotel restaurant where we have eaten dinner for the last few nights. He always has a joke and smile. Across the road is the Ralph Lauren store and one of the windows is fitted with a large video screen. It takes up the entire window space. It shows a never ending video of a Ralph Lauren fashion parade and the video is the same every night. I asked Kenny if he could pop across the street and ask them to change the channel to something else. He said that he didn’t think that he had enough influence to make that happen, and he thought that the models were very glamorous and deserved some more exposure.
Finally, there was the lady at the waterfront cafe yesterday on Cheng Chau. She wore a silver pith helmet and had the ability to bail up every person who passed by, trying to rope them into eating at one of her waterside tables. When we succumbed to her invitation, she brought along an insulated jug of warm tea and some glasses. I assumed that one drank the tea so I poured a little into the glass and sipped it. Soon, she came long. offering me a beer. She calmly tipped my tea into the harbour and then filled my glass with beer. Then she poured all the same tea into a green plastic bowl telling me that it was for ‘washing hands’. I must be rather dumb! She had the ability to keep an eye on every table, as well as watching the passing crowd for more potential customers, In between her touting, she would rearrange tables to provide more space for customers and up-sell items from her menu. She was so observant that I doubt that we would have been able too get more than two paces away, had we tried to leave without paying. Running a cafe in Cheng Chau is a very active job indeed.
We finished our day on the island with a walk round the village and watching interesting things like an old gentleman laying out fish to dry by the harbour as well as a visit to the local temple.